Beware of Greeks fearing gifts

The Greeks founded Europe, and now they may end it.  And the vehicle for both is the same:  Democracy.

The European powers carefully crafted a deal to bail out Greece, forgiving half of their debt at the cost of significant reforms and austerity measures.  With this agreement, the world’s stock markets soared.  But then the Greek government, despite its earlier agreement, suddenly decided to put the accord to the vote of the people.  Since the population seems opposed to  austerity, the prospect of a referendum has cast the agreement into doubt, sending the world’s stock markets into another dive and shaking the economic foundations of the Eurozone.

World leaders convening at this resort [Cannes] for a long-planned summit find themselves confronting a suddenly acute crisis over Greece and signs of an economic slowdown throughout Europe that may narrow their room for action.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou left a cabinet meeting in Athens early Wednesday with his government intact — for now — and backing his plan to hold a national referendum on the country’s latest international rescue program.

World leaders will gather in Cannes, France, on Nov. 3 and Nov. 4 to discuss Europe’s debt crisis and other economic issues. Thousands of protesters are gathering in France to urge the G-20 leaders to focus on the poor.

But his call for a popular vote on Tuesday has jeopardized the rescue plan and upended the agenda for Group of 20 leaders. Papandreou has been called to a meeting here Wednesday night to explain himself.

This was to have been a summit where the G-20 — the forum where industrialized nations and the leading developing economies compare notes on the world economy — puts its stamp on a plan that convincingly appeared to settle Europe’s lingering financial crisis.

Instead, with Cannes under a security lockdown that has made its streets into a virtual ghost town, the group will be looking for ways to avoid even greater problems. The 17-nation euro region is trying desperately to navigate between the budget-cutting and reform needed to bring down high levels of government debt, and the tepid economic growth that is sapping incomes, causing chronically high unemployment and straining political systems.

via World leaders to confer with Greece over referendum call – The Washington Post.

Do you think the Greek government was right to put the question of accepting the economic package to a popular referendum?  Does the world’s economic problems bring us to the limits of Democracy, the possibility that people will not vote to suffer, even when the alternative may be suffering on a far greater scale?  Can you see something like that happening here, with voters rejecting efforts to cut back federal spending AND repudiating new taxes AND demanding ever more entitlements, to the point of national bankruptcy?

UPDATE:  The Greek government has now scrapped the referendum.

The Republican Dukakis

The problem with Mitt Romney is not just that he’s a Mormon.  And it’s not just that he is insufficiently conservative.  As George Will argues, it’s because he tries to straddle all issues and seldom comes down to a consistent position.  After describing his various waffling positions on ethanol subsidies, bailouts, and state public employee unions, Will comes to the following conclusion:

Romney, supposedly the Republican most electable next November, is a recidivist reviser of his principles who is not only becoming less electable; he might damage GOP chances of capturing the Senate. Republican successes down the ticket will depend on the energies of the Tea Party and other conservatives, who will be deflated by a nominee whose blurry profile in caution communicates only calculated trimming.

Republicans may have found their Michael Dukakis, a technocratic Massachusetts governor who takes his bearings from “data” (although there is precious little to support Romney’s idea that in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants is a powerful magnet for such immigrants) and who believes elections should be about (in Dukakis’s words) “competence,” not “ideology.” But what would President Romney competently do when not pondering ethanol subsidies that he forthrightly says should stop sometime before “forever”? Has conservatism come so far, surmounting so many obstacles, to settle, at a moment of economic crisis, for this?

via Mitt Romney, the pretzel candidate – The Washington Post.

A Republican Dukakis!  A governor of Massachusetts.  Someone who looks good but has authenticity problems.  Someone who promises competence, not ideology.  Will’s characterization may say it all, including predicting the outcome should Romney, as seems likely, get the Republican nomination.

Why is Wall Street supporting Obama?

Democrats are attacking Republicans as lackeys for Wall Street.  President Obama has thrown his support behind the Occupy Wall Street protesters.  He wants to pour on more regulations and restrictions to big investors and banks and to take advantage of the public backlash against big corporations.  And yet the denizens of Wall Street are giving Barack Obama much more money than they are giving Republicans.  In fact, Mitt Romney’s old company is contributing more money to Obama  than to their former CEO!

Despite frosty relations with the titans of Wall Street, President Obama has still managed to raise far more money this year from the financial and banking sector than Mitt Romney or any other Republican presidential candidate, according to new fundraising data.

Obama’s key advantage over the GOP field is the ability to collect bigger checks because he raises money for both his own campaign committee and for the Democratic National Committee, which will aid in his reelection effort.

As a result, Obama has brought in more money from employees of banks, hedge funds and other financial service companies than all of the GOP candidates combined, according to a Washington Post analysis of contribution data. The numbers show that Obama retains a persistent reservoir of support among Democratic financiers who have backed him since he was an underdog presidential candidate four years ago.

Obama’s fundraising advantage is clear in the case of Bain Capital, the Boston-based private-equity firm that was co-founded by Romney, and where the Republican made his fortune. Not surprisingly, Romney has strong support at the firm, raking in $34,000 from 18 Bain employees, according to the analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

But Obama has outdone Romney on his own turf, collecting $76,600 from Bain Capital employees through September — and he needed only three donors to do it.

The battle for Wall Street cash has become a crucial subtext in the 2012 campaign, which is shaping up to focus heavily on federal banking and markets policies and the struggling economy.

Top Republicans have courted major U.S. bank executives and financiers, arguing that Obama’s policies have hurt them, while Democrats are seeking to turn the erosion of support on Wall Street to their populist advantage.

Obama’s ties to Wall Street donors could complicate Democratic plans to paint Republicans as puppets of the financial industry, particularly in light of the Occupy Wall Street protests that have gone global over the past week.

via Obama still flush with cash from financial sector despite frosty relations – The Washington Post.

Can anyone explain why donors would contribute to candidates against their interests?  Or do these donors think that Democrats would be far more likely to bail they out again than Republicans?  What all is going on here?

OK, what about Newt?

The consensus of yesterday’s discussion here on the last Republican presidential debate is that Newt Gingrich had the best performance.  He is certainly conservative, experienced, creative in his problem solving, and very, very smart.  (It is said of him that the only preparation for a debate that he needs is a Diet Coke.)  So why not rally around him as the alternative to Romney?

Social conservatives and the Christian right turned against him because of his multiple marriages and his womanizing past.  But he is a recent convert to Catholicism.  He says his life is turned around.  Shouldn’t Christians accept that?  (Catholic question:  In Protestantism, a conversion to Christianity means that one’s previous sins are swept away.  In Catholicism, do his previous divorces and remarriages prevent him from receiving Holy Communion?)

The other thing against him is his reputation as an undisciplined campaigner, blowing through his fundraising and losing practically his whole campaign team.  He claims, though, that traditional campaigning like that is obsolete, that television and the internet–not kissing babies and pressing the flesh–are where elections will be won now.   Surely with the Republican party machinery behind him the practical aspects of campaigning could be taken care of.  He would surely acquit himself well in the debates with President Obama.

OK, I’m grasping at straws here.  But what would you think about Newt?

The latest debate

We had another G.O.P. presidential candidate debate.  I’ve stopped watching them, finding them too disheartening.  If you watched it, please report in the comments.  Did anyone rise or fall?

What does Occupy Wall Street want?

Some of the demands of the Occupy Wall Street protesters:

Demands posted in OWS’s name include a “guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment”; a $20-an-hour minimum wage (above the $16 entry wage the United Auto Workers just negotiated with GM); ending “the fossil fuel economy”; “open borders” so “anyone can travel anywhere to work and live”; $1 trillion for infrastructure; $1 trillion for “ecological restoration” (e.g., re-establishing “the natural flow of river systems”); “free college education.”

And forgiveness of “all debt on the entire planet period.”

via Can Occupy Wall Street give liberals a lift? – The Washington Post.